Four years ago, I was on a flight bound for Christchurch, New Zealand solo. I was nervous, excited and scared all at the same time but on reflection, I can safely say it was the best decision and best experience of my life to date.
Image credit: Unsplash.
Facebook memories did it’s dutiful job and reminded me that I was on my way to Christchurch this time four years ago. I honestly remember it like it was yesterday. Most of you will know I actually ventured back to NZ in January of this year for a five week, much needed holiday with James. It was his first ever experience abroad and so he loved it undoubtedly, for me, it was full of nostalgia.
Visiting places I’d been before, the town I lived in, catching up with friends and even staying at one of the farms I’d worked on, getting stuck in with a couple of milkings. I was back in my element. This time around though, I travelled more, we discovered more and some of the sights we saw and experiences we took part in – the Te Puia Māori Experience for example, or fishing out in the enchanting Queen Charlotte Sounds – it was a different side to New Zealand that I hadn’t immersed self in before.
I am often asked about my NZ experience, what I did, where I went and how I organised it all so, I thought I would put together a little whistle-stop guide to planning your Summer down under, whether it’s a spontaneous last minute decision (much like mine was) or you’re looking to plan ahead for a year or two, hopefully you’ll find this helpful.
Step 1. Think carefully about where you want to spend your time in New Zealand. Most people head over to NZ to work the Summer season so you’ll want to find somewhere you like the look and sound of for that period. For farmers that’s around 3-6 months, from around October/November to March/April time (I spent 7 months out there from Sept – April.) For those of you thinking of going out as a groom or rider, they’ll most likely need you for the show season which is predominantly throughout the Summer months too. If it’s more the lifestyle you’re after, dairy farming is pretty busy all year round and the demand for fruit pickers is ripe over the summer months. Bar and restaurant staff are needed year round but especially in the warmer season as it is the time of year tourists flock to the country.
The North and South Island are very different. Often people say you’re suited to one or the other, I am certainly more at home in the South Island. The North Island is much more jurassic and populated by bushland. There are more marvels there such as caves, geothermal wonders waterfalls and the famous glow worms. It is generally warmer in the North Island as it’s northern regions are subtropical. Whereas, the South Island is, I would say, more beautiful. It is larger than the North and more populated with lots of mountain ranges, fjords such as Milford and Doubtful Sound and a dramatic coastline. I personally found the South Island more accommodating, safe and like home but that isn’t to say you might feel differently and there is no right or wrong. I think it is just important to consider which will suit you best. Both islands are breathtakingly beautiful and should be experienced before you leave.
2. What will you do and where will you stay?
This goes hand in hand with my first point really, when it comes to Working Visas, the immigration officers like you to be able to show where you are planning to stay during your time in NZ or at least be able to demonstrate you have the means to support yourself. Many farming and equestrian jobs will offer accommodation as part of the package, similar to
au-pair placements. You may have to pay a small amount of rent but generally you’ll find you will be staying with others in the same boat and it can be incredibly fun. I would recommend opting for this route as having to find accomodation separate to your job can be a faff, not to mention costly and you’ll often have to then commute to your work place. There are some brilliant websites where you can browse various jobs for example; Backpacker Board has a wide variety of jobs from farm work, to waitressing, bar work to au-pairing, whilst YardandGroom has equestrian specific roles.
Step 3. Once you have decided where you’re going to base yourself and in part, what you are wanting to do whilst you’re out in NZ – apply for your Working Visa. The process is generally quite quick (luckily, mine was) but I have heard cases where it’s taken about six weeks, don’t let being unprepared hold you up. Obviously if you have any criminal convictions this will slow the process down. The visa is valid for two years from the start date too. You can apply for one here using STA’s approved service – there is a small cost but it’s worth it!
Step 4. Flights. Get your flights booked! Flying to the other side of the world isn’t going to be cheap and if, like me, you like to do things last minute, the flights are going to set you back a bit. I bought a one-way (for me there is something almost romantic about that) as I want sure when I’d be coming home, I’m pleased I did. However if you’re more of a plan-ahead kind of person, booking in advance will save you a lot of money. My biggest piece of advice here is, whether you’re booking in advance or not, make sure your passport is in date and has the required time left on it to allow you to travel. From memory I believe your passport needs at least 6 months before it expires to allow you to travel to NZ. I didn’t realise this, had everything planned and then just as I was about to book my flights for only a few days time, I realised my passport didn’t have the required time left on it and so had to jump on a train to London the next day to get it renewed up at the passport office setting me back another £100+!
Image credit: Unsplash.
Step 5. Packing. I wish someone had told me this before I had gone. My initial job was as a rider, groom and au-pair on a dairy farm in Rakaia, South Island. For this, I needed to bring my riding hat, boots and wellies. Although I cleaned them, when I arrived my bag was inspected by customs as many are when you state you work with animals or as a farmer and have bought your equipment or boots with you. NZ is very hot on it’s bio security and so if you do bring your boots with you, make sure they are SPOTLESS and have been disinfected… I got told off!
Step 6. Keep your important documents safe and in one place. I used to laugh at my mum when she‘d carry all of our passports, holiday documents, insurances, proof of medical cover and literally anything else we might need in a folder when we’d go on holiday BUT, now, I see why and I do the same myself. In fact, I’m encouraging you to do the same. You’ll need your identification documents to set things like your bank account, IRD number, phone contract etc. You may also need to show the immigration officers these. I even printed out my job offer, acceptance and confirmation along with the address of the farm and names of my employers in case the immigration officers questioned it. I know it might seem OTT but I can’t recommend this enough, especially if you head out alone like I did.
Step 7. Bank account, IRD and phones. One of the first things you’ll have to do (with the help of your employer if they’re kind enough – mine was, she picked me up from the airport, we went cross country schooling and then into town to get the above,) is to go and sort all of the above. You won’t be able to get paid otherwise and much of this you have to wait until you touch down to do. Some phones are unlocked abroad and you’re able to use them but others you’re not. An NZ SIM card and number is probably the easiest solution, that way you’ll be able to call and keep in touch with your employer, new NZ friends and things like that. You can use iMessage and WhatsApp to keep in touch with everyone at home still and of course, you’ll have FB, Instagram etc when you have WiFi or mobile data.
The IRD number is like our National Insurance and is purely for tax purposes, you’ll have to select different tax brackets depending on what it is you’ll be doing whilst your working in NZ. This is your unique tax reference number issued by the Inland Revenue Department (IRD). You’ll pay higher tax when working in NZ but keep this in mind though, as once you leave NZ, you are able to claim back on your tax to receive a nice rebate. You will not be able to work or get paid without an IRD number. There is no cost to this. Find out more here –
You’ll need your valid passport, your NZ bank account details, tax number from home (NI number), proof of your intended work in NZ. Since 1st October 2017, you can apply for an IRD number online, this wasn’t available when I was there!
Finally your bank account. Just like in the U.K. there are various banks to choose from, I opted for ANZ but BNZ is a popular one too. It’s easy to get bogged down on interest rates, options and bank fees but honestly, just go in store. Everyone is super friendly and eager to help, just explain your situation, what you’re after (a standard account to store your wages, a card to allow you to pay for things and use ATMs, no strings or frills attached!). The people at ANZ were fabulous when I went in for mine. One word you’ll hear and see a lot is EFTPOS. I had absolutely no clue what this meant for a good few days. Most banks will supply you with a free EFTPOS card when you sign up for a bank account. This is essentially your NZ debit card. You’ll use this at ATMs or to pay for things in store using chip and pin or contactless. To open a New Zealand bank account, you’ll need to provide proof of your identification, a passport is the recommended form of valid ID in NZ.
Proof of your postal address. Another reason why securing a job with accommodation is a bonus. You can use a hostel or a hotel but it isn’t advised as it isn’t a permanent/fixed address. You cannot use your home address.
A copy of your visa and your overseas tax identification number – National insurance. By the end of your appointment with the bank, you should walk away having opened an NZ bank account, with your new EFTPOS card and a PIN number ready to use.
Step 8. Your passport is your ID. This is just a quick handy to know point, most places in NZ will only accept your valid passport as a form of ID for purchasing alcohol, whether it’s from a shop or in a bar/pub. It’s a pain I know but, get used to carrying your passport around with you but for goodness sake don’t loose it.
Step 9. Driving in NZ. I do recommend you have access to a car whilst your in NZ. For convenience at the very least but also it’s great to be able to get away if you need a little space or time alone, plus you’ll want to go an explore on your days off! I was lucky initially in that my boss was more than happy for me to use her car to go to the shops or to use on my days off, when my housemate then bought her own car, I was able to borrow this when I needed. We’d often go shopping together and so that worked well. I’d recommend finding out from your employer whether there is a vehicle for you to use if you need before you arrive. Buying a car in NZ is easy enough and not too expensive but it can be tricky to do if you don’t have the means to view it in the first place. We bought Nessie, our recent car for $1600 about £850, unseen whilst we were still in the U.K. using my old Trade Me account (great place to look for cars, it’s like the NZ version of Gumtree or the FridayAd). The chap we bought it from was decent, and true to his word thankfully. He even picked us up from the airport!! They drive on the same side of the road as we do, so it isn‘t too different although everything is in Kmph there instead of Mph – something to bear in mind!
Step 9. Make the most of it! I don‘t want to sound like I am teaching you suck eggs but, immerse yourself in every minute of your time in New Zealand. It is the most breathtakingly beautiful country and home to some of the most hospitable, friendly and keen to help people I have ever met. It is all too easy to understand why people fall head over heels in love with the country and never come home.
On your days off, make sure you find time to go and see the landmarks, find the hidden gems, follow the beaten track to the secluded waterfalls etc. Experience Queenstown, go and watch a rodeo! Yes, many of the experiences do cost money but save a little each week to go and do one or two. I didn’t the first time around because I was paying for my horse back at home and so missed out then, but in January, we made up for it. Admittedly, the bungee and sky dive are yet to be ticked off the list but, there’s always next time?
Much of your NZ experience you’ll take as it comes, such is the NZ attitude to life. One of my job placements came about one evening whilst we were jet skiing around our friend’s irrigation pond. I said I was looking for a new job, he said funnily enough he might have some work and that was that. Don’t worry too much try to take every day as it comes and enjoy it.
Once you‘ve gone through the above, secured your job and touched down in NZ, there really is nothing left to do other than embrace it and go for it! Make it everything you dreamed it would be and more!
I am yet to find anything more beautiful than watching the sun rise over the milking parlour or riding my bike around the fields getting the cows in under the most awe inspiring blanket of stars. My favourite place in the world is nestled in Orari Station, Geraldine. I had planned to go back and visit it during our trip but apparently the road leading up to it is falling away and only 4x4s can get to it which Nessie unfortunately wasn’t. Although, trust me, I’ll see it again. Even if I have to walk up there.
This is it… my favourite place in the entire world nestled in Orari Station.
I’m going to end this with my must have places to visit whilst you are in NZ:
1. Kerosene Creek, Rotorua (North Island)
2. Doubtful Sound, Fiordland (South Island)
3. Te Waikoropupū Springs (Pu Pu) Springs, Golden Bay (South Island)
4. Pelorus Bridge, Marlborough (South Island)
5. Queenstown (South Island)
6. Lake Wanaka (South Island)
7. Marokopa Falls, Waitomo (North Island)
8. Hot Water Beach, Coromandel (North Island)
9. Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park, south of Rotorua (North Island)
10. Aoraki/Mt Cook (South Island)
Until next time…
Lots of love,